Teaching Spare parts; the dreamers and reaching your goals


spare parts“Spare Parts,” a smart, creative and highly-enjoyable drama about a team of intelligent, hard-working and ambitious high school students who enter a prestigious robotics competition, and their dedicated science teacher who mentors, educates, pushes and inspires them, is a rousing, uplifting, spirited–and excellent–film and a great start to the new film year. – Source: WFI 

The films also raise the issue of the Dreamers, kids illegally smuggled to the U.S. by their parents and who grow up as Americans. Before President Barak Obama’s policy of Deferred Action  for Childhood Arrivals, Dreamers faced deportation.

These developments have altered the conditions for these young people and should be included when working with this topic.

President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. Senior White House aides huddled Sunday afternoon to discuss the rollout of a decision likely to ignite a political firestorm — and fulfill one of the president’s core campaign promises. Source: politico

Competence aims covered in this task:

  • 2h interpret and use technical and mathematical information in communication
  • 3B understand and use an extensive general vocabulary and an academic vocabulary related to one’s education program
  • 3E use own notes to write texts related to one’s education program
  • 3H produce different kinds of texts suited to formal digital requirements for different digital media
  • 3I evaluate different sources and use contents from sources in an independent, critical and verifiable manner
  • 4D discuss and elaborate on English language films and other forms of cultural expressions from different media

Teachers find more activities to work on here.

Lesson plan

  1. Watch the movie in class. For goal 3E you need to be able to take notes from the movie.
  2. Write a post on your blog where you discuss one or more of the following topics: succeeding dramatically in academics, working together as a team, different cultures, race and politics, immigration issues, the Dreamers (see explanation above) and the importance of mathematics and robotics. (try to include all the above competence aims here!)

After Showing the Movie

One of the most interesting things to do with Spare Parts is to see how much of the film is true and how much was made up by the movie makers. Here are some of the most important points.

  • The basic story is accurately portrayed; four undocumented Latino kids from the poor neighborhoods of Phoenix entered the national underwater robotics competition with a remote operated vehicle (“ROV”) made from off-the-shelf components, including PVC pipe for the frame, and beat the best colleges in the nation, including MIT.
  • There is a lot of truth in the characterizations of the students. Oscar Vazquez was an ROTC cadet who dreamed of enlisting in the Army but couldn’t because he was undocumented. He was just as much a natural leader as the character shown in the film. Cristian Arcega was the nerdy designer of the robot. Luis Aranda was big and quiet, but not at all slow. Lorenzo Santillan was not only a smart-aleck, but also an intuitive mechanic, if not quite the mechanical whiz shown in the movie; Lorenzo came up with some of the innovations that made Stinky a success.
  • There was no advertisement for the Robotics competition in the recruiting office, nor was Oscar the impetus for the group although Oscar was very much a go-getter and leader. Entering the competition was the idea of the teacher and there were two teachers, Fredi Lajvardi and Allan Cameron. There was no engineer who was a substitute teacher and who thought about leaving the school in the middle of the term.
  • There is no evidence of the fights and that Louis had to protect Cristian from bullies at the school. These were added for dramatic effect.
  • Oscar really did go to sleep after being smuggled across the border and woke up hungry, only to find that his cousins had eaten his burger.
  • The judges did give a special award to the Carl Hayden team which the boys and the teachers originally thought was going to be a “pity prize” and that they had lost the competition.
  • Lorenzo really did ask the teachers if they could go to Hooters if they won. When the announcement was made that Carl Hayden High School had won the competition, the first thing that one of the teachers said to Lorenzo was that he should not mention Hooters when they got up on the stage.
  1. Write a short paragraph on your blog about what surprised you about the list above.
  2. Write a short paragraph where you describe the difference in resources the teams had to use on the robot and how this influenced their work.
  3. Write a short paragraph on areas where a robot can be useful. Here is one example from Japan. And here is one from China. 
  4. Oral task, in your groups, discuss the following; How has the situation changed for the people who are trying to get into the United States after Donald Trump became president? What were the protesters concerned about this summer? Find more info here:

Since 20 August, more than 1,400 migrants have been left by smugglers in the broiling desert – or in one case in a drenching thunderstorm – in remote areas by the border. One group was as large as 275 people.

“We’ve seen large groups in the past, but never on this scale,” Tucson-based border patrol agent Daniel Hernandez said. “It’s definitely a serious concern because their safety is being put in jeopardy.”

Hernandez said the latest case involved 61 people rescued by agents last week from rising floodwaters caused by unusually heavy rains in an isolated area and “it could have been a much, much worse situation if the rain continued”. The guardian

Children who won’t leave their parents’ side. Parents tormenting themselves every night for not having been able to stop their children being torn away by border patrol agents.

This is what’s left behind months after the Trump administration cancelled its family separation policy, which saw the US government separate more than 2,300 children from their parents at the US border with Mexico. The Guardian.

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